Where Matt Forte Ranks Among Best Chicago Bears of Past 15 Years

Tony Giardina@@tonygiardinaCorrespondent IJuly 24, 2012

Where Matt Forte Ranks Among Best Chicago Bears of Past 15 Years

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    Now that the contract disputes are over, everyone can look forward to Matt Forte being a Chicago Bear for at least the next four seasons. At age 26, Forte is already one of the biggest offensive threats in the game. His running ability along with his receiving skills make him dangerous every time he touches the football. 

    Forte is a rising star, and it's just a matter of time before he reaches his full potential. He is arguably the best running back the Bears have had since Walter Payton, and the next few years will be a big step in determining Forte's place in Bears history. 

    For now, Forte has cemented his place as one of the best players in recent memory. 

    Here are the top 10 Chicago Bears of the past 15 years. 

10. RB Thomas Jones

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    Thomas Jones played just three seasons for the Bears, but was an offensive weapon during his time with the team. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Arizona Cardinal had never carried a full workload until he got to Chicago. As a Bear, he rushed for nearly 3,500 yards and scored 22 touchdowns on the ground from 2004 to 2006.

    Jones was a key part of the 2006 Super Bowl team, rushing for over 1,200 yards during the regular season and adding two touchdowns in each of the Bears' first two playoff games. He departed in the offseason for New York to play for the Jets

9. S Mike Brown

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    Mike Brown had the potential to be one of the best safeties in the game had it not been for his constant injury concerns. From 2004 to 2007, he played just 21 games for the Bears in what should have been the prime of his career. 

    In 2001, Brown accomplished one of the most memorable feats in NFL history. In back-to-back games against the 49ers and Browns, he intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown in overtime. A defensive back scoring the winning touchdown in consecutive weeks is something that hasn't been equaled since, and likely never will be. 

8. K Robbie Gould

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    A fan favorite, Robbie Gould is one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL. He has attempted 218 field goals in his career and made 187 of them. His 85.8 percent success rate is good enough for fifth in NFL history. 

    Gould's best year came in the Super Bowl season of 2006. He was selected to the Pro Bowl, making 32 of his 36 field goal attempts and converting all 47 extra point tries. An accurate kicker to salvage stalled drives is important to have, and Gould is one of the best in the business. 

7. DT Tommie Harris

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    In the first few years of Tommie Harris' career, it looked as if the Bears had snagged a future superstar. The 21-year-old rookie had a successful season in 2004 followed by three consecutive years of impressive play that saw the Bears' run defense and pass rush improve significantly. 

    Harris was selected to the Pro Bowl in all three of those years and signed a big contract extension before the 2008 season. He was a decent player in his last few seasons with the club but could never match the level he played at from 2005 to 2007. 

6. RB Matt Forte

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    Matt Forte has the best chance to move up this list by the time his career with the Bears is over. He is just 26 and entering his fifth year in the league. Forte has already rushed for more than 4,000 yards and is almost at 2,000 yards receiving through his first 60 games in the NFL. 

    Last season was cut short because of an injury, but it was by far Forte's best year. He averaged 4.9 yards per attempt, the best mark of his career. He also ran for 997 yards and gained 490 yards receiving despite playing in only 11 full games.

    A healthy Forte could mean a huge year in 2012 and the start of a superstar career for the running back from Tulane. 

5. CB Charles Tillman

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    Charles Tillman has been consistently solid at cornerback for the Bears since he was taken with the 35th overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft. In his nine years in the league, he has intercepted 30 balls, five of which he has taken back for touchdowns. 

    Tillman is also known for his ability to strip the football. He has forced 27 fumbles in his career, including four fumbles in each of his last four seasons. He earned his first Pro Bowl selection in 2011 and looks to build on his success moving forward into 2012.

4. OLB Lance Briggs

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    Lance Briggs was a great complement to Brian Urlacher when he came into the league nine years ago but has since grown into a star in his own right. The powerful linebacker combo has been the key to the Bears' fierce defense over the past decade. 

    Briggs is one of the better outside linebackers in the NFL and has been selected to seven consecutive Pro Bowls. His best season came in 2005 when he was named 1st Team All-NFL by The Associated Press. At just 31 years of age, Briggs still has plenty left in the tank. 

3. KR/PR Devin Hester

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    When Devin Hester was selected by the Bears as a cornerback out of Miami in 2006, nobody knew that he would become arguably the best returner in NFL history. He became a game-changer in his very first season with the team and helped them reach the Super Bowl. 

    After breaking just about every return record there is, it was decided that Hester could be more valuable on offense. However, the one thing the three-time Pro Bowler hasn't been able to master thus far is his transition to wide receiver. Having a true No. 1 wideout in Brandon Marshall may take some of the attention off Hester this season and result in a breakout year. 

2. C Olin Kreutz

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    From 1998 to 2010, Olin Kreutz anchored the Bears' offensive line for 191 games. In 2003, he began a streak of consecutive starts that didn't end until his departure from the team 128 games later. Though he was one of the top players at his position, Kreutz's leadership off the field was just as important as his abilities on it.

    The longtime captain will go down as one of the greatest Bears to ever play. He appeared in six consecutive Pro Bowls from 2001 to 2006 and paved the way for a flourishing ground game. Kreutz and his offensive line were key in Thomas Jones' success and the Bears' Super Bowl run in 2006.

1. MLB Brian Urlacher

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    The ninth overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft, Brian Urlacher has become one of the best defensive players of his era. He can make a tackle from sideline to sideline and has a keen sense for the ball. Urlacher is as well-rounded as they come. 

    Over his 12-year NFL career, Urlacher has accumulated 41.5 sacks, 21 interceptions, and 13 fumble recoveries while leading one of the most dominant defensive units in the game. Even at 34, the seven-time Pro Bowler is one of the best linebackers in the league.